Google Tech Talk: Urban Reconstruction and Modeling for Building Virtual Worlds

A few weeks ago we featured ran a post on Automatic Architecture: The CityEngine. The post looked into the procedural modelling of cities and more specifcally the work by Pascal Mueller a PhD candidate and research assistant at the Computer Vision Lab of the ETH Zurich, Switzerland.

Peter has teamed up with Peter Wonka from computer science faculty of Arizona State for a Google Tech Talk and at an hour long its worth grabbing a drink and sitting back and watching.

The abstract for the talk is as follows:

Creating digital content for virtual worlds remains a significant challenge, especially for urban environments, which are among the largest and most complex. As display capabilities improve and audience expectations grow, procedural modeling techniques are becoming an increasingly important supplement to traditional modeling software.

In this talk, we present grammar-based, image-based and interactive methods for the efficient creation of urban environments. Thus massive architectural models of high visual quality and geometric detail can be produced at low cost. Selected examples demonstrate solutions to previously unsolved modeling problems, especially to consistent mass modeling with volumetric shapes of arbitrary orientation.

Furthermore,we show massive urban models with unprecedented level of detail, with the virtual rebuilding of the archaeological site of Pompeii as a case in point.

The full talk is embedded below courtesy of YouTube:

Certainly one of the most interesting talks we have seen in quite a while…

Thanks go to Vint Falken for posting the comment that pointed to the tech talk, thanks Vint.

Author Bio

Andy is Professor of Digital Urban Systems at the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis at University College London.


  1. Anonymous - March 12, 2008

    while this is interesting i think more cities will use a more geographic (non-procedural approach) to acquire an accurate model that can truly be used in planning and emergency applications. See as an example.

  2. vint falken - March 12, 2008

    No problem. I see you blog about SL importing functions too.. *jumps to read that one*. I’m eager to see the (future) times, when 3D, real life, … architecture will be totally intertwined. I hope it can be done. Will be done.

  3. coastal - March 13, 2008

    I think anonymous misses the point here. The City Engine which they describe is being used to generate cities and apply different constraints to. It’s either about creating fantasy cities or real world style cities to which ask questions about such as city evolution.

    If you’re wanting to run emergency planning questions then of course you’ll want a model of your real world city. You wouldn’t be interested in unreal cities or long term evolution. These are two completely different subjects.

  4. Richard Browning - March 13, 2008

    But the potential of this technique is that these models can only get more accurate as more information is inputted/more rules are applied. In a long, long time we may even be able to predict, quite accurately, what a city *will* look like in the future, and base design and urban planning decisions on this.

  5. Pascal Mueller - March 19, 2008

    Thank you for the posts and the inputs. We think that procedural methods such as in the CityEngine can highly influence future/base design and urban planning decisions e.g. we are currently also working on automatic CO2-optimzations of buildings and cities, which could help to save energy on a major level.

    Please stay tuned for the launch of the commercial version of the CityEngine in May @ FMX ( in Stuttgart, Germany. Hope to see you there.

    For Procedural Inc.,

    P.S.: And yes, as coastal pointed out, our solution can be applied to create buildings from photos or to enhance such cities which have been acquired with photogrammetric methods. For example have a close look at the low texture resolutions of these FBS models or the textured cities in Google Earth and you know what I mean … not really immersive at street level yet 😉

  6. Anonymous - April 3, 2008

    Hi Pascal,
    Amazing work! Is there any particular day to be at Procedural’s booth at fmx?

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